The Falcons did reach a milestone on Sunday in their 20-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the first time in team history they have back to back winning seasons. Despite that, they failed to make the playoffs despite a three-game win streak to end the year.
“We want to be a relevant football team year in and year out, and that’s what we talk about,” coach Mike Smith said. “When you’re relevant, you’ve got to have a winning record, and then you’ll have an opportunity to be in the discussion for the playoffs. We weren’t in the playoffs this year, but we have a season that gave us nine wins. That’s something that we’re very proud of.”
Matt Ryan threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns to help the Falcons reach a 9-7 record and grab the 10-point win over their division rivals. The Falcons did it without leading rusher Michael Turner, who was replaced by Jason Snelling, who ran for 147 yards on 25 carries.
“I definitely felt like I was in a rhythm, in a zone,” Snelling said. “The coach kept feeding me the ball, I was able to make plays and the guys kept blocking for me.”
Much of the damage came while Atlanta was putting the game away after intercepting Bucs rookie Josh Freeman twice in the fourth quarter. Ryan threw TD passes of 2 yards to Justin Peelle and 12 yards to Roddy White, the latter snapping a 10-10 tie midway through the fourth quarter. He finished 23 of 35 with two interceptions.
“It was a huge win for us to finish the season off with three wins in a row,” said Ryan, who led Atlanta to 11 wins and a playoff berth as a rookie last season. “It said a lot about the guys that we have in the locker room.”